Freedom of Speech

There seems to be a grave misunderstanding as to what is protected by the right to freedom of speech in the US amongst both right and left-wing media. That concerns me greatly, as these organizations profess to represent the pinnacle of political news coverage, and such mutilation of a major governing document by a source which claims to be the only right and true word on politics and government is unforgivable.

This is the relevant portion of The United States Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Too long, didn’t read? Here’s what you need to know, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” That’s it, nothing more.

If Congress makes a law to prosecute you for what you say, then you have grounds to complain that your right to free speech is being violated. Until then, if someone is just disagreeing with you, if you are being publicly ridiculed for your words, or even if you are being completely censored by a private group, you have no grounds to invoke such a right.

Freedom of Speech shields US citizens from laws created by the US Government to prosecute them for their words. It does not shield them from the judgement and disagreements of others.

11 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech

  1. Great post! Thanks for a much-needed refresher course. πŸ™‚

    One of my favorite quotes:

    “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” I discovered it hanging on the wall in a small publishing establishment. Wish I knew who said it first…

    • You’re welcome! πŸ™‚

      I agree on the freedom of press quote, though I do wish we all had more transparency regarding things that only the press has access to.

      • Ha. Actually found the source: A.J. Liebling. I almost never think to google stuff. πŸ™‚

        However, I misquoted it: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

  2. I strongly disagree here. I believe free speech is a concept that’s broader than any particular formulation.

    Some U.S. states offer broader rights that protect free speech in quasi-private spaces, like shopping malls. Obviously, many other countries have their own, different formulations of similar rights.

    In other words, “Freedom of Speech” does not shield “US citizens from laws created by the US Government to prosecute them for their words”. The First Amendment does.

    People that invoke that their rights are being violated, just because someone dares to challenge their views, are clearly overreaching. I don’t think any serious person disagrees with this.

    However, I don’t think we can immediately discount ethical (rather than legal) arguments for a broader notion of free speech. The Constitution hardly has the final say on what’s good and proper and right. I’m also sure there are legal arguments, too, as there isn’t a person on earth that interprets it literally (thankfully).

    Incidentally, where’s this left-wing media you mention? πŸ™‚

    • Oh, I do agree that it’s a lovely concept, I’m not arguing against that. Rather, I’m arguing against media interpretations that folks can head down the path of lawsuits if TV networks censor their interviews, online media publishes pieces refuting their claims, or former NBA team owners are banned from the league (just to name a few examples).

      My experience of the misunderstanding in both right and left-wing media comes from both Fox News and MSNBC. They both play the Freedom of Speech card heavily these days, as long as it suits their respective agendas. I will admit that the majority of Freedom of Speech misuse that I have seen is from right-wing media, though I have seen my fair share in left-wing media too. I mentioned both to be fair and to avoid any sort of right vs. left-wing arguments/distractions. πŸ™‚

      • Fox and MSNBC represent a fairly narrow band of possible political positions; I really wouldn’t consider either remotely of the left.

        I don’t really follow the examples you gave, as I don’t follow cable news.

        • I guess I’d consider Fox News to be firmly to the right and MSNBC to be firmly to the left, or at least some sort of twisted attempt to be the opposite of Fox News.

          It’s best to not follow cable news, I haven’t for the past 2 years, but the sources I do follow sometimes quote cable news.

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